Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Blogger--Dennis Cole: "She asks, 'What if?'......"

She asks, "What if?" ...and it happens.


The answer has been rattling around in that empty space between my ears for a while, and the conclusion of the matter is that there is a commitment and a bond that has formed between several key people. The bottom line is making the show,the event or the project something we are proud to attach our names to. Everything is a performance. Since that is the case, I want to give an insider's view of the cast, along with a character description.

CHRISTINE SCHAEFER: (Peter Pan ,The Pied Piper, Pinocchio).
I think she is a little of each. She is unafraid to take on a task and is always looking for the next adventure (Peter Pan). Part of the "never say no" mentality can be attributed to a cast of "enablers" that have shown that they care as much as she does (Pied Piper). She is very trusting and therefore sometimes finds herself caught between what is "supposed" to be happening in the theatre world and the reality of life for her volunteers (Pinocchio). I believe it takes this type of person - a dreamer - to make it all happen. She is an artist and that typically comes with varied emotions and a version of "logic" that most of us fail to completely understand. However, none of us would be doing any of this, and the community of Greenfield would be much different today, if the little lady with the big ideas was not here.

All of these folks (I also include myself) have, at different times, played these roles. If you recall,Jiminy was Pinocchio's conscience and the voice of reason. I am not saying Chris doesn't have these traits. It is reasonable that any person with really big ideas needs someone there who is unafraid to ask the tough questions and challenge them. The role of Jiminy, however, is not exclusive to this. He (or she) has always been there for KidsPlay and CrazyLake to bring in the common sense approach - to organize the nuts and bolts of the operation. Each of these people possess the ability to exist as both artist and crew leader. Jiminy is able to see, and more importantly translate, the vision to the people who can make it happen.

At times, each of us have also needed to be Captain Hook. Not everything is a great idea. Sometimes someone has to be willing to be the bad guy and say what needs to be said - sometimes to Chris, and sometimes to others. Each of us have a great friendship with each other and the confidence to know that conflict doesn't mean the end of that friendship. Each of us see the end goal and will always protect the best interest of KidsPlay and CrazyLake.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Neither of these civic-minded men have any interest in being on stage. However, without the financial risks both of them took, I believe KidsPlay and CrazyLake would not be in the position we are in today.

When I was first associated with KidsPlay, Chris would often mention Stan as one of our strongest advocates. I didn't actually meet him for several months. Once I met him, I realized he is a relatively shy man who has a heart for his community and for the kids. I believe (and I have no proof of this) that Stan put a pretty good sum of money into KidsPlay in the early days and he is a large part of why KidsPlay was able to continue to grow to what it is today.

CrazyLake Acting Company was actually born from KidsPlay. The first cast was primarily a bunch of KP parents. When we decided to do our first show, Kurt Vetters immediately volunteered to take the risk and finance the show. Kurt is one of the most selfless men I know. He is a true advocate for our community.

The Wizard was not some mystical magical being. He was simply a man who diverted attention away from himself while doing good for others. These two men fit that role.

JOE URBAN: (Bagheera, the panther in Jungle Book)
A group of friends, who are also parents of KidsPlayers, were sitting in Steak 'n Shake after a show one evening when Joe said, "We should do a show..."

It is at that moment CrazyLake Acting Company was born.

Joe has more stage experience than the rest of us. The majority of us have a fairly similar back story: "Several years ago... (blah,blah,blah)...out of shows for a while because (blah,blah,blah)..."

For Joe this was merely a transfer of experience from one venue to another. Our success has a lot to do with his experience and connections.

Chris learned quickly that directing adults was different from directing children. The cast learned quickly that getting on stage again, knowing our kids were watching every move, was a defining moment for us. Joe was the one who guided us through it as an internal leader with unfiltered truth.

Much like Mowgli, Chris got tired of hearing Joe say, "This is how adult theatre works...". But also similar to the story, Joe got frustrated because Chris didn't want CLAC to be the same as everyone else. We managed to put on a great show that fell somewhere in the middle. Sure it made for some tense moments, but ultimately we made our kids and ourselves proud with the final product.

GREENFIELD CENTRAL DRAMA: (The Little Engine That Could...and all the cars)
The relationship between GC Drama and KidsPlay/CrazyLake is a busy two-way street. It began several years ago when KidsPlay grads found their way onto the stage at Greenfield Central High School. We have always said, "Once a KidsPlayer, always a KidsPlayer", and that has been evidenced through the kids' involvement in both programs. Last summer, I cast my daughter, Payton, as Annelle in "Steel Magnolias". I had a fear of cries of nepotism, but then remembered she had more stage experience than just about everyone in the cast thanks to KidsPlay and GC Drama. It was the right call.

Inspecting Carol had former KidsPlayer/ CrazyLake Acteen, Lauren Prazeau and former CrazyLake Acteen Luke Agee in the cast. Both are also active in GC Drama. Again, it was the right call.

We've had the pleasure of having Lex Atkison and Aaron Batka - two of the sharpest young minds around - run tech for us. We've had Jayme Frederick pave the way for Rachel Batka as stage manager. This list goes on.

My point is that we can be proud of what we are doing through both GC Drama and our community endeavors because these kids know how to, and are willing to, do what it takes to make a show great. They think they can...and they do. They "get it".

"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!" This list of players is too long to individually write, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Sometimes the line gets blurred between a KidsPlay event and a CrazyLake event. Most of the time, this doesn't matter. The theatre family in Greenfield is where the true magic lies. It is a matter of giving them the job, and walking away. Before you know it, the lobby looks like you are walking into another world, or there is somebody with a pair of gloves and a cordless ready to move the set. Everything is done for the love of the game and a reward of "thank you". I am proud to be associated with the countless people who take the time to do this - for the kids, for the troupe and ultimately for their community.

Although I have listed a cast of characters, I now realize that I still have no idea WHY it happens. That is because each of these people have their own motives behind what they do. I am still amazed every time we have a successful show or event - even if the process may not be have been as smooth as we are used to - because we always come out as family.

Maybe the WHY isn't as important as the WHAT. Perhaps it is an imperfect, sometimes dysfunctional, theatre family's drive to support each other that deserves the standing ovation.

I am satisfied with that answer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Marvels of Opening Night

It wasn't exactly opening night.  We really call it our "Dress for the Press" Preview Night in hopes that my vision of the Daily Reporter, the Indy Star, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, the Indiana Business Journal, Joan Rivers, and NUVO all showing up to cover and review the show.  As it is, it has evolved into a preview night for the kids' teachers (our best word-of-mouth), a few select guests and of course, our beloved World Class Laugher--Wendy Carson.  It's a great evening of finally getting the show in front of an audience that will enjoy and applaud--to remind us what's funny and to teach us the important performance skill of 'waiting for the laughs'.

This one was a tad shaky going in.  Had a real 'come to Jesus' meeting (as we used to say in IPS) with the kids on Thursday last week.  Reminded then what they were here for; reminded them that all 14 of them were chosen from the 50 who auditioned to carry on the KidsPlay legacy of excellence and quality; reminded them that their audition for the next show began with the read-through for THIS show....  Apparently, it worked.

We survived Long Sunday.  Starting at 8 a.m. dismantling the KidsPlay set in the Dungeon, moving it to the theatre and reassembling it there.  Tape, paint and trim out the set.  Decorating the lobby.  Costumes in the dressing room.  Everything in place.  That was followed by a tech rehearsal at 1:30, a start-and-stop notes rehearsal at 2 p.m., and finally a full run.  It's a stressful day and I always feel the pressure of parents, crew who are ready (sometimes before *I* am) to call it a day and take their kids home.  Amazingly, there was none of that.  I'm very tuned in to it, and I sensed...nothing.  Just parents/crew/kids all committed to the end goal--a tight, well-orchestrated production.  As it was, we left the theatre at about 5 p.m.  Yes, tired, but ready for Monday, another rehearsal, followed by Tuesday--our Dress for the Press.

The kids took the stage last night in front of their teachers, some family and the playwright, Scott Haan.  Under pressure?  Yes, Queen, thank you.

Now, I am NOT a believe in 'it'll all come together in the end'.  In fact, I literally grit my teeth when someone says that (inevitably it's a parent who drops their kid off and leaves with NO IDEA of what it takes to do what we do, but that's another story).  Yes, it WILL all come together in the end, but not just by crossing our fingers and wishing and hoping.  It is NOT just luck.  It IS hard work, and planning, and details, and focus.  It is all of those things. 

Mmmm, yeah.  All those things, so that when you put a show up on the stage that was built on the strong foundation of hard work, details, planning, effort, focus, and rehearsal-rehearsal-rehearsal--on the stage in front of a live audience, you simply can't deny, you can't, that there's, mmm, a little magic in the mix.  There really is.

The performance was absolutely mesmerizing.  I've been trying all morning to put my finger on just what it was.  The brilliant timing of the opening dialogue between Pig and Cow?  The looks exchanged by Lion and Lamb?  Dawg dealing with his parasite problem on stage working like it NEVER worked in rehearsal (in fact, I'd told him to cut it in favor of just scratching fleas)?  Cat was in 'bring in on' mode.  Mouse adorable and totally understandable with her squeaky mouse voice.  Queen and Prince's deadpan and conversational tossing off of song lyrics in the dialogue.  Peter's ba-da-bing lines delivered in the set-'em-up-and-knock-'em down way that only he could do?  Everything, everything worked together--the show was firing on all cylinders and our small appreciative audience loved it.  LOVED it.

There are always challenges to be met and lessons to be learned in theatre--by the cast, the crew, the director.  Some new, some simply reinforced.  This show was no different.  We explored how costumes help the audience understand the character (to the point of restyling Piggy's outfit YESTERDAY to coincide with the character she so brilliantly created).  This show could have been someone's master's thesis in blocking and provided lesson after lesson in stage and spacial awareness for the kids.  We were challenged again and again by the personification of animals--very difficult (and yeah, I think we'll take a break from it for awhile...).  The choreography of crowd scenes, of chaos, of fighting, and chasing.  The timing of puns and one-liners--all challenges that would probably be considered over the heads of 3rd-8th graders.  Hard work, rehearsal, commitment, talent...and yeah, the magic thing, too.  It all comes together--and it's good.  It's all good.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Perception of Children's Theatre

When I first started KidsPlay.  I remember feeling nervous that I was, well, a directorial micro-manager.  Through the weeks of rehearsal, I played every part for them:  constantly modeling voices, how to walk, how to talk, timing, gestures, and all the components of creating a character.  I often worried that I was 'overdirecting' them, that I didn't give the children enough freedom to create their own character, that I didn't let them develop their style.  I don't worry about that anymore.

I mean, I see what WE do; and I see what others do.  Our shows, our little kid-shows, are...may I say it--good. Better than most, really.  I push my actors as far as I think they can be pushed and then some.  And the outcome is good.  I've come to believe that an issue with most children's theatre is that the directors simply don't realize what the children are capable of achieving.  KidsPlayers ACHIEVE.  Oh, believe me, they DO.

In the early years, I would encourage people to come and see our shows, people that were not associated with the show, didn't know anyone in it, and basically, would have no reason to attend except for entertainment.  I would start talking about it, and I would see their eyes glaze over.  I understood why.  I mean, look at your average children's theatre production.  Most are attended out of obligation to a child, and most are near-death experiences (as in, 'just kill me now, please').  And I understood that to change that glazed look, that people would have to SEE us to believe what I was telling them.

I remember gathering the KidsPlayers and their parents to see a production of another group of young performers.  It was an uncomfortable experience, to say the least, and it infuriated my KidsPlay parents.  One of them stormed out, angrily saying, "It's stuff like THAT that gives children's theatre a bad name!"  

We, my family and another, saw another abysmally bad production just last night.  We went with high hopes to see a show that we were considering as a future KidsPlay production.  I'm eternally optimistic.  I always go into another children's theatre production expecting to be impressed, to be blown away even, by a high degree of talent, production values, performance and professionalism.  I expect to have a new bar set for what KidsPlay can become in the future.  More often than not, I'm dismayed and disappointed.  Repeatedly.  And disappointed, we were.  In fact, we left at intermission, having turned over $15 of KidsPlay's money for actor tickets, $15 of my own money, and $10 from the other family--money that will support more such theatrical endeavors in the future.   [Ack!]  I have seen an ocean of bad theatre in my lifetime, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually left before it was over.  Two minutes into the show, my adult son was glaring at me from his seat.  Fifteen minutes in, my younger son, a row in front of me turned around and whispered through clenched teeth, "Mom, I WANT to LEAVE NOW."  At intermission, I woke my husband up, looked around at the rest of the party--the daughter of my friend was staring at me, head slumped to one side, reduced to a near-non-verbal state--and as a group we shuffled to the lobby, and then left one and two at a time.  We immediately went to a local restaurant and talked of what we'd seen:  fast-talking actors raced through their lines in an effort to finish before they ran out of air, bizarre costuming choices that didn't in any way help us to discover their characters; actors who couldn't have possibly been told--EVER--to face the audience.  Bad accents, lighting by--who?  Someone pulled in off the street?  A sad little makeshift set...  And we laughed when we realized that the one time we were all riveted to the action on stage, was when one girl forgot her lines.  We hung on that moment with bated breath, waiting for her to recover, for someone to prompt her--which someone finally did--and the show went on.

Yes, we are an unfair audience, I agree.  We know way too much about the mechanics of performance to ever really get lost in show.  And we who are involved in KidsPlay are spoiled, yes, we are--by amazingly talented kids, a dedicated technical team, and a hard-working parent group who combine to create truly fabulous productions.  We are used to this level of quality and, sadly, we're often shocked when we venture into the rest of the theatre world.

So these are the battle lines for KidsPlay:  1) the perception of children's theatre as mind-numbingly bad theatre to be suffered through rather than enjoyed; 2) the idea that any English teacher, any parent volunteer, anyone who's ever seen "Cats" has the skills required to direct a play; 3) we promote the idea that theatre is more than just a free-time filler, that is a worthy extra-curricular activity, a fulfilling avocation deserving of dedication and commitment; 4) we believe that the magic is in the details; 5) and we fight to be REAL entertainment not just for parents and grandparents, but for the community at large.

This is what we stand for.  This is our mission.  We are KidsPlay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Working on a Show...

We're working on a funny little show, right now, called "Storybook Reunion Murders" by Scott Haan.  I should probably call it a 'punny' little show, because that adjective fits it to a 'T'.   It's a play about storybook and nursery rhyme characters from 'rival colleges' (I'd be willing to bet, however, that Simple Simon didn't graduate magna cum laude...) who book the same banquet hall on the same night for their college reunions.  The characters of Jack, Peter, the Dawg, the Horse, Sheep, Piggy, etc. represent every Jack, Peter, Dawg, Horse, Sheep, Pig, etc. in every nursery rhyme or fairy tale.  For example:  Jack is Jack-in-the-Beanstalk, Jack-Be-Nimble, Jack Sprat, and Jack from 'The House That Jack Built'.  The cow is the one that Jack sold for magic beans; it's also the cow that jumped over the moon.  As the play goes on, there are references to these different characters, lines from fairy tales and so forth, and some stuff from contemporary cultural literacy.  For example, the Lion yells at Sheep to be quiet and Jack pipes up:  "And now we'll have silence from the Lamb."  The Queen and the Prince routinely quote lines from Queen and Prince song lyrics, and the Witch denies scaring those kids in the woods  ("That was my cousin Blair.")  You get the picture.

The show is simple enough--just 14 characters.  A good number of the kids are already off book.  But it's the blocking that's giving me fits.  If you've worked with me, you know how I hate characters that just stand around and deliver lines.  That's one of my pet peeves in kiddie theatre.  Unfortunately, in this show, with the set being basically a large room--with a single banquet table set up in the middle--that's basically what's happening.  Characters from opposing schools (and sides of the table) step forward, exchange two or three sentences of wittiness, and then fold back into their groups.  Thus far, it's been a blocking disaster.  As a group, we are learning to 'adjust', create crowd scenes, and spatial positioning on stage.  I gave them a heads-up early on, that all their blocking should be written in pencil because it was all bound to change.  And as we run through scenes, I try to smooth out the composition of the moving painting I'm creating on stage.

I told the kids last night, after we'd run through the first act, that there was something with the blocking I hadn't fixed yet, and they would just have to trust me that when the right 'idea' came, it would all click and that they should expect changes.  I began thinking that, with everyone bunched around the table, adding set pieces might be the key.  I got the idea to put a mirror on the wall for the Queen (so she could see 'who was the fairest of them all' whenever she wasn't in dialogue), and a grandfather clock on the wall for the mouse.  "These are your 'go-to' places," I explained to them, "that when you're not in the scene, you drift over to that spot and stay there."  Well, of course, then the hands went flying up. 
Peter:  "I want a giant pumpkin on the set as my go-to spot." 
Witch:  "I want a crystal ball stand." 
Jack:  "I want a well."  (!!) 
Dawg:  "I want a fire hydrant." 
Hilarious.  And you gotta LOVE their imaginations.
It's good; it's all good.

Oh.  One last anecdote.  I have a friend, Frances, who regularly orders from...VistaPrint.  Said she could get a free banner for the one Horse and Mouse hang up at the back of the set.  She and I spent some three hours messaging on FB, her sending me photos of her computer screen and the design...  So she ordered it yesterday.  And last night, in the run-through.  Dawg said, "Welcome back, Grimm Graduates."  Frances and I look at each other and at the same time we say, "We left out 'back'!"  The banner only says, "Welcome Grimm Graduates."  OMG, we laughed 'til we cried.... 
The blind leading the blind (no offense meant, Mouse...)

A life in the theatre....and my life is awesome.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Awesomeness That is KidsPlay

We're doing a collection of modernized fables we call "Aesop 2.0".  I picked this script after we read some of them in the Greenfield-Central Theatre Arts class.  I thought they sounded cute.  And although 'cute' is an adjective I never want attached to a KidsPlay production, I thought it would be a fun and easy show to do while I worked on the CrazyLake show.  Thought the humor fit the kids.  Thought, since there were seven fables, that more kids would get to have larger parts, therefore, more 'lead roles'.   All of this has turned out to be true, but for some reason, I've been a little dissatisfied with the overall results.  Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist.  Maybe I'm not taking into account that I have an unusually young cast.  Of course, some of the fables are better than others.  Of course, there are moments of brilliance in all of them.  But a friend delicately pointed out to me that KidsPlay is becoming something other than what it started out to be--that we seem to be doing an awful lot of fairy-tale spoof stuff lately, shows with juvenile themes--and we're getting away from our roots of scripts that showcase the kids' acting, not just their cute kid-ness.  He's right.  

But in the meantime, we have this show, which is cute, but possibly not our best production ever, and possibly, with the lack of substantial whole-show parts--not the best one on which to send out my wonderful 8th graders.  Still, there's some amazingly strong performances in it.  And I see growth.  We got rave reviews from our matinee audience of first and second graders yesterday morning...and this is where my doubts are put to shame, when I begin to see how awesome the show--and the kids that are in it--really is.

There are several places in the seven fables that call for audience interaction.  Audience interaction is a wild card.  A cross-your-fingers moment.  A major issue is not being able to see the audience.  The lights are so bright that when the kids are trying to pick out individuals to respond, they can't see them.  Another issue is that you never know if the audience is going to respond or if they will leave you hanging and awkward on the stage.  Thirdly, if you do get a responsive audience, getting them back into 'audience mode' can sometimes be a challenge.  But I'm here to say that my actors--my kid actors in the 3rd-8th grade--are pros with ice water in their veins.  
  • Ariel--encouraging the audience to say the dog's name that she didn't like to say ("Scab") by pulling her ear, and then pulling from them the moral of the story.  The primary-aged kids began yelling stuff out all as one.  It sounded like noise to me, but somehow, her sharp ears picked out something she could grab onto to finish the show.  "That's right!" she said, "be happy with what you have or you may end up with nothing!"  She didn't miss a beat.  Kept the show going.  Kept her cool.  Her composure.  And total control.  She was completely in charge and completely as ease.  No sweat.  Perfect.  And amazing.
  • Rebekah--charged with pulling the audience up out of their seats to do jumping jacks with her.  When no one moved after her first entreaty during the Tuesday night Preview, she put her hands on her hips and said, "I DON'T joke."  Boy, you can bet they jumped to their feet in a BIG hurry after that.  Queen of the Calisthenics and Queen of the Stage.
  • Aubree--the cheerleader who excitedly asks the crowd, not just one, but TWO questions:  "What's your favorite 'aminal'?" followed by "What would YOU spend that much money on?"  225 first and second graders responded; then changed their minds and yelled out a different answer, and then changed their minds again.  She struck her 'no nonsense' pose and they quieted right down--before she replied, with great boredom, "That's nice.  *I* like chickens..."
And then there were the inevitable live theatre occurrences to cover.   
  • The pacifier attached to the bone--that makes it easier for Reuben, the dog, to more easily carry it in his mouth--came off and he had to make his last entrance without the bone he was to throw in the pond.  He came out slowly, and angled himself in such as way that the audience didn't really notice that he dropped nothing into the pond.  Quick thinking and nerves of steel.
  • Colin's cool fox hat will just not stay on, now that we've added ears.  And after the third time it fell off, he kicked it--in a straight line to a space between the flats.  Good kick.  Out of sight and out of mind of the audience.  Problem solved.  
Such quick thinking.  Such calm.  Such improvisation.  And the chatter on the headsets was admiring and approving as we patted our collective selves on the back that we're part of the program that has THESE children, part of the program that shaped them into young stage veterans, part of the program where these kids make four months of planning, training and details look like a cakewalk, a romp in the park, like dancing in the sun.
 Such awesome kids.  And I'm chagrined.  They take my doubts, my concerns, my faltering opinion on the show--and they SHOW me that I should not be comparing it to previous productions, to previous actors--but to where THEY were when we started this together way back in January.  They show ME that their energy and enthusiasm--for even a walk on-part, a spot in the dance group, the chance to run sound--is why they're here.  They make me smile.  They make me proud.  They make me believe.  The theatre is where it's at and that, from top to bottom, KidsPlay rocks. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Marvels of "Grease"

So, the DramaTeens finished up the 2010-2011 theatre season at the high school with "Grease", a play of dubious message--summed up by one as "moral pestilence", and by another as "sex, alcohol, vandalism are all okay if you just stay in school"--but a classic and very popular play with much fun music and dance.

A week long party to which I attended only in wishful spirit, but just try and keep me away from the performances--where I saw many wonderful and amazing things.  Here is what I saw:

1)   I saw a young woman who made her theatrical debut by tripping off the stage prance confidently around in 5" (or was it 6") heels with never a misstep.  I
2)  I saw a young man who missed his chance behind a bouquet of flowers, plant one on her in the front seat of an engine-less car before God and everybody.
3)  I saw a boy who came to theatre way too late, create a character from words on page into flesh and blood and p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-y.
4)  I saw a girl who once did a commercial for Mother Claus's Mints practically steal the show with her hilarious antics and who was obviously having more fun with her small part than should humanly be allowed.
5)  I saw a guy who'd spent his entire theatre career lurking backstage, suddenly find the limelight in the final theatrical production of his high school career.
6)  I saw the biggest kid on stage run full-throttle through the auditorium, and you better believe I stayed out of his way!
7)  I saw an emotional girl, who long ago found a home in the theatre, pour it ALL out in a song that left us breathless--again--with her ability to totally immerse herself into a role.
8)  I saw a fabulous girl with pink hair, and a boy with broken glasses demonstrate their versatility of character. 
9)  I saw a boy with no lines who was, indeed, the best dancer.
10)  I saw a boy walk on in the dark, already in character, already mentally preparing to flip off the front of a car.

I saw much more than these few mentions, but mostly I saw an extraordinary group of kids--who must have been exhausted and stressed beyond belief--band together to put on a production that betrayed nothing of the nail-biting down-to-the-wire efforts of the preceding week.  On that stage, there was not one iota of anything less than the joy of youth, their boundless energy, and the desire to entertain.  They made it look fun, easy, and effortless.  Oh, ha-ha.  But THAT, devoted readers, is the theatre.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Love Letter to Shazam

First, can I tell you that I think you’re one of the bravest people I know.  You amaze me.  In fact, all of you kids on the stage amaze me.  Do you know that you have WAY more acting experience than I have?  I did just one show in high school, two shows in college, two in Indianapolis a long time ago, “Fiddler”, and then “Steel Magnolias” with your dad, and that’s it.  Think of all the shows YOU’VE been in.  I get so nervous before a show.  Everyone makes fun of me.  And so I admire your courage to go on stage again and again.  You have more courage in your little finger than I have in my whole body.  When I think of you, I think of nerves of steel.  I remember what you did in “Peter Pan”, and I remember one rehearsal when kids were dropping lines left and right and you filled in and fix every mistake.  And you are brave to stand in front of me twice a week and listen to me tell you everything you’re doing wrong.  Very brave. 

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Why do I always give lots of bad notes and very few good ones?”  And then I think of you, Aubree-the-actress, and I think:  because it would take way too long to tell you everything that is wonderful about your performance.  We’d be there all night.  It’s easier—and shorter—to just tell you the handful of things that need fixing than it is to list the countless wonderful things about you.

You are wonderful in so many ways—wonderful because I can hear you on stage, wonderful because you’re enthusiastic about acting, wonderful because you obviously love being there, wonderful that you’re not afraid of me, and wonderful because you take theatre so seriously, and you are directable.  That makes you wonderful, too.  Do you know what that means?  It’s a good thing.  It means that I can tell you what I need you to do, and you can fix it.  There are some kids in theatre that, no matter how many times I tell them, show them, and tell them again, they can’t make the change.  They’re not aware enough of themselves, their bodies, their voices to know what to do to change it.  You, my dear, are VERY directable.  And not afraid to try the things I want you to do, no matter how silly.  Brave and talented.

And now we come to what you need to do to fix “The Country Maid”.  You already know what it is, so I won’t say it again.  Tonight in rehearsal, I have a suggestion for you that I’ll save until I see you.  Until then, keep your chin up, my little KidsPlay star.  I adore you, and I’m sorry that I pushed you to the point of crying at rehearsal. I felt very sad when I realized that.  It’s my job to push you, but sometimes I go a little overboard, and I apologize for that.

Onward and upward.  We have many shows behind us and many more ahead, but for now, let’s make this one (say it with me) the Best. Show. Ever.  ;-)